Support workers struggling with their mental health

How to encourage workers to speak up early and implement strategies to support them.



How this helps your business

When employees feel comfortable telling their manager or colleagues about mental health issues, you are able to offer support as early as possible and prevent problems getting worse. You can start addressing any workplace factors that may have contributed, plan around potential absences, find better work for them and support them as they get treatment.

The earlier an employee feels able to ask for help, the less time they will spend away from work, which is a better outcome for both your employee and for you.

Step 1: Learn more on this topic

Geoffrey weighs up the pros and cons of talking with his boss about his anxiety in this 3-minute video from Heads Up.

If you have any managers, it could be a good video to share with them to start a discussion about how your organisation can respond to employees' mental health issues.

Step 2: Make a commitment

The Stop Mental Illness Stigma Charter was developed in rural Victoria to encourage workplaces to do things that help employees and customers feel supported. It was developed by Murray PHN but they encourage all Australian workplaces to sign up.

The Charter is made up of seven commitments. Committing to each of these things will help reduce stigma about mental illness in the workplace. Workplaces can sign the charter when they agree to each of the commitments.

Step 3: Talk with your staff

Having brochures and posters in your workplace with links to support services in your community helps to assure your staff that it is normal to get help. Talking about and displaying mental health information in the workplace gives employees the confidence to speak up and support their co-workers to do the same.

Step 4: Learn about support services

Some workplaces may have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) you can suggest as an option for employees who are struggling. An EAP is a confidential service funded by an employer designed to help employees address and resolve work or personal issues that may be affecting their work performance. (It may not be possible for all small workplaces to establish an EAP.)

For employers who do not have an EAP, it would be useful to keep a list of good local or online services they can refer employees to. The online Health Direct website can be a good starting point to find local services (linked below).

Step 5: Make a plan

Showing people that you are able to support someone when they have a mental health issue, whether it is work related or not, makes your staff feel valued.

Many workplaces are familiar with return to work plans for employees who have had work-related injuries. These same processes can be used for employees who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Plans should be developed together with the staff member, their treating health professionals, their family members, and other people who support them.

As much as possible, offer flexibility around work hours, shifts and tasks so that people can stay at work. The Heads Up website has downloadable return to work and stay at work plan templates you can use.

This Heads Up video gives tips on how managers can support employees who have a mental health condition. They offer practical suggestions on arranging work to support recovery.

More resources

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.